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Chinese mining firms descend on Hwange, villagers fear eviction

Greater Whange Residents Association has condemned the mushrooming of Chinese firms in the district amid fears that villagers will be displaced to make way for mining activities.

Speaking to CITE, the association`s coordinator, Fidelis Chima said the mining activities are also threatening sacred heritage sites in the area.

“Chinese firms are mushrooming in Hwange and ironically they are located near homesteads and there are now strong fears that villagers will be evicted and also the Nambya sacred ruins might be destroyed,” said Chima.

“Animals such as elephants are running away from the game park due to mining activities taking place at mines like Makomo and are now causing havoc to human beings. People are now living in fear of these animals.”

He said they strongly condemn the way some traditional leaders are handling the issue.

“We roundly condemn the way the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) is conducted as a handful of people are handpicked for consultation. The consultation process should be all inclusive,” said Chima.

“The way the traditional leadership is being showered with freebies at the expense of social cooperate responsibility leaves a lot to be desired.”

He vowed that they will protect sacred sites like the Lubumbusi shrines which are under threat.  

“We are not going to allow any evictions of villagers without their consent, without compensation and alternative place to stay,” vowed Chima.

He added that even though these firms employ locals, they are paid meagre salaries, work for long hours under toxic conditions. 

Hwange Central Constituency Member of Parliament (MP), Fortune Daniel Molokele said they are not consulted when government engages with the firms.

“As for the office of Hwange Central we are never consulted about these companies they are working directly with the government from Harare, we hear that they are working directly with the President,” said MP Molokele.

“This is a painful issue to us, we are planning to organise an all stakeholders conference with community stakeholders so that we fight this Chinese issue and see that they respect communities because at the moment they are doing whatever they want basing on the fact that they work closely with the President.”

Meanwhile, Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), a research and advocacy civil society organisation whose mandate is to promote good governance of natural resources, particularly minerals called on government to follow proper procedures when issuing out mining licences.

“It is true, government has been giving licenses to mining companies without following due procedure,” said CNRG Communications Officer Simiso Mlevu.

“In Dinde area, a Chinese miner has given verbal notice to villagers to leave the area and all this is being done without engaging villagers. The miner told villagers that he got permission from the President and as CNRG we call upon President Mnangagwa, to at least follow due procedure.”

Mlevu added that it is not only the Chinese companies but also South African companies that are mining in the district.

“There are fears that mining activities will lead to desecration of Chief Nekatambe’s grave,” she said.

“These licenses are not given Chinese miners only because there is a South African investor who is prospecting within at Bumbusi Heritage site within Sinamatela in the Hwange National Park. Bumbusi is an important Heritage site for the Nambya community because it is their last administration Centre to be destroyed by colonialists.”

Mlevu said the government was taking advantage of the Covid-19 lockdown “to intensify mining activities, fully aware that the oversight role by the locals and civic society organisations is curtailed by the lockdown.”

“Besides the environmental concerns that are being raised, there are massive cultural violations going on in Hwange and CNRG calls on the Environmental Management Agency to execute its mandate and also the government of Zimbabwe to protect the rights of its citizens.”

Matabeleland North Province Environmental Education Officer, Mildred Matunga said all projects being implemented in the district went through the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process and were issued EIA certificates.

“I am not aware of any project being implemented in Hwange without an EIA,” said Matunga.

“When it comes to public consultations, it is a very critical thing that ought to be done during the EIA process and you find that public consultations uphold stakeholder participation which we also uphold in terms of environment management as an agency.”

Minister of State for Matabeleland North Province, Richard Moyo dismissed claims villagers will be evicted instead applauded the move saying it will create employment for the youth.

“What I want to tell you is that the President was in Hwange last week and he was commissioning some of those companies and no one is being evicted instead those companies are giving our youths employment and community social responsibility like schools, clinics and roads so there is no one who is going to be evicted from their homes,” said Minister Moyo.

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